Africa’s interior-to-coast roads are well suited to export natural resources, but not to support regional trade. Are they the optimal response to geography and comparative advantage, or the result of suboptimal political distortions? We investigate the political determinants of road paving in West Africa across the 1965-2012 period. Controlling for geography and the endogeneity of democratization, we show that autocracies tend to connect natural resource deposits to ports, while the networks expanded in a less interior-to-coast way in periods of democracy. This result suggests that Africa’s interior-to-coast roads are at least in part the result of suboptimal political distortions.
political economy democracy infrastructure natural resources development